Somewhere along my parenting journey I declared war on mosquitoes. It has been a costly war, with casualties pretty stinking low on the enemy’s side.
You can’t perceive my tone through this text, so please know that I am saying this in a really sinister, drawn-out, deeply angry kind of way: “I loathe mosquitoes.” Emphasis on “loathe.”
I despise what they have done to my precious infant’s head: turning it into a blotchy, bumpy, teenage nightmare. I despise that they have turned our pretty little backyard into a place where not even the toughest of souls would dare venture. And I hatehatehatehate that, really, there’s nothing I can do about their stupid rapid multiplication.
The suckers just won’t go extinct.
If I blasted 10 trillion of them with a poisonous hose treatment, 30 seconds later their vacuum would be filled by 10 trillion more. There’s no dent that can be made in their numbers. What a sickening reality.
As I lay awake in my bed at night contemplating and scheming how to make life pleasant and mosquito-free for my kids (in a non-toxic, deet-free kinda way), I come to a realization.
I’ve been doing it all wrong. I’ve been fighting a curse that I am totally incapable of stopping. I need to stop trying to kill the little boogers and, instead, start focusing more on creating an undesirable yard for mosquitoes to live in. Fortunately, an undesirable yard for a mosquito is a lovely yard to a human.
This is what I’m not promising: a mosquito-free yard. Sorry, folks…never gonna happen. But here’s what I am promising: a bubble of sanity around you and around your kids. A mosquito-free bubble. You may have an angry swarm of mosquitoes 90-trillion deep pressing in on your bubble, but there’s a bubble nonetheless.
How does one go about creating this bubble of sanity?
Plants, my friend. The right kind of plants. Plants that you keep in a pot nearby.
So, without further ado – because, let’s face it, you’re getting bit up as we speak – here is my list of top secret, mosquito-repelling plants and herbs and some tips for how to be most strategic with them.
Mosquito-Repelling Plants & Herbs
1. Citronella Plant
The Citronella Plant is great to have on hand because the leaves can be used to rub on your skin as a repellent. The plant itself does not deter mosquitoes, however. Citronella Plants do well in a large pot located in an area with some afternoon shade.
We exited our wedding reception to the pummel of lavender in our faces, and now we are growing it in our yard as a mechanism of mosquito war. Lavender is beautiful and has a lovely smell…and mosquitoes hate it. It thrives in warmer areas and needs full sun and good drainage. Plant it near seating areas in your yard to keep the mosquitoes at bay. But plant it with room to grow! At this point, our lavender bush is about 5 feet wide by 3 feet high – it gets big! (At the end of this post, I am going to share a lavender-based mosquito repellent that is a breeze to make.)
Rosemary, I love you for your delicious addition to any meal. I also love you because you make mosquitoes miserable. Crushing the leaves of the rosemary plant releases an essential oil that repels mosquitoes and other flying pests. You can snip a few stalks and place them in a jar near your outdoor seating area, or you can rub some on your skin. Rosemary is very hardy. It thrives in even drought-prone areas. With some time, your rosemary bush can grow to be quite large and will be a huge mosquito-fighting asset in your garden. (I provide a rosemary-based mosquito repellent recipe at the bottom of the post.)
Marigolds are one of my aces-in-the-hole. They are pretty; they are highly effective at repelling a wide variety of pests; they make a lovely garnish and are even edible! Marigolds are a festive and hardy annual that contain Pyrethrum, which is an ingredient found in most manufactured bug repellents. I have lined my flower beds with them near all of my children’s play areas to help keep the mosquitoes at bay.
5. Lemon Balm
Lemon Balm is a member of the mint family and boy it is one aggressive little plant. I recommend planting your Lemon Balm in a pot; otherwise; it will totally take over your garden. But maybe a little proliferation is the best thing for a mosquito-infested yard. I consider Lemon Balm to be the most effective of all my mosquito-repelling plants. The plant itself is a strong repellent, and the crushed leaves provide a potent oil that works as a fantastic repellent when rubbed on your skin. (The leaves contain large amounts of citronella compounds.) A fun added benefit of growing your own Lemon Balm is the delicious herbal tea you can make with the dried leaves!
There are many different varieties of basil, but when it comes to warding off mosquitoes, Lemon Basil seems to be the most effective. It grows well in a pot or in the ground, and fortunately, is one of the easiest herbs to grow! The plant itself is a natural deterrent; there’s not even a need to break the leaves in order to repel pests. But if you are need of a quick and powerful repellent, rub a broken leaf on your skin; the oil works wonders at keeping away mosquitoes.
Mint is another natural deterrent to flying pests, including flies and mosquitoes. If you plant it directly into your garden, be prepared for the mint to quickly take over! Keeping the mint contained in pots makes it much more manageable. Mint can be used in a variety of ways to repel mosquitoes and flies: the plant itself is a deterrent, so keep a pot near any outdoor seating areas; the leaves can be crushed and rubbed on skin to act as a strong repellent; crushed leaves can be placed in a sachet bag and hung around the house to keep out flies. And the obvious added bonus with growing your own mint is the tasty addition a couple of leaves can make to a glass of lemonade, water, or tea!
These are only 7 of dozens of plants that can be utilized for their mosquito-repelling properties. I have filled my garden with herbs like lavender and rosemary and basil and have lined my flower beds with lovely marigolds…all with the intention of keeping my children protected against mosquitoes in a deet-free manner.
Like I said, these plants and herbs will not make a dent in the mosquitoes’ numbers, but they will keep them at bay, which is all my kids really need.
Helpful Hints and Repellent Recipes:
- If your plants and herbs are being targeted by hungry caterpillars, don’t poison them with chemicals! A simple solution of water and 5-6 drops of plain Dawn in a spray bottle is a wonderful deterrent to caterpillars. Your plants are kept safe from poison and the caterpillars are driven away by the terrible taste of Dawn soap. Reapply once every 10 days.
- Buy as many of the plants and herbs as you can, and plant as many of them as you can in pots. The more transportable the herbs are, i.e. in pots, the more you can keep them near you wherever you are outside. Remember, you are trying to create a mosquito-free bubble.
- Repellent Recipe #1: Crush a handful of lavender leaves with a mortar and pestle and add to 1 cup of vodka. Let the mixture sit for 12 hours. Store in a mason jar and, when ready to use, place dabs on the neck and behind the ears.
- Repellent Recipe #2: Boil a quart of dried rosemary leaves in a quart of water for 20-30 minutes. Strain the liquid into an empty gallon container which already contains a quart of cold water. Store the sealed container in the fridge and spray on your skin as needed. When the water loses the rosemary smell, it’s time to discard.
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